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For the last three seasons, Beth Rates has been a thorn in the side of Meade County coach Josh Hurt.
While he has enjoyed watching the Hancock County senior center transform into the future NCAA Division-I player she is, Hurt can’t wait till Rates is no longer torturing his Lady Waves.
“She’s extremely quick, extremely strong and has a nice touch,” Hurt said of Rates, an Austin Peay signee. “She attacks the ball as good as any player I’ve seen. She has a sixth sense of where the ball is going to come off. You see that in great rebounders; they seem to know where the ball is going to go. And when she gets it, she can finish.”
Like she did in a 65-63 win Jan. 10 against the visiting Lady Waves (20-9) when she had 31 points and 12 rebounds. Eight of her points came on second- and third-shot opportunities.
“Sometimes, I think we over-think things when we’re playing against her,” said Meade County sophomore guard Morgan Turner. “And that’s not putting her down at all; she’s a great player and a great person. It’s just going to take full focus for the entire game. She can offensive rebound like no other, and we just have to focus on boxing her out and limiting them to one shot.”
Keeping Rates off the boards will be easier said than done when the teams meet at 8 tonight in the Girls’ 11th District Basketball Tournament championship game at Hancock County.
Top-seeded Meade County advanced to the final with an 89-22 win over fourth-seeded Cloverport Frederick Fraize, while the Lady Hornets (17-10) held off third-seeded Breckinridge County, 55-43 on Monday night.
If the Lady Waves are to claim their sixth district title since moving from the 5th Region in 2005-06, Hurt said they must keep tabs on Rates.
“She’s always the one we try to stop every time we play them,” junior guard Raley Johnson said. “We always talk about how we’re going to defend her, how our posts are going to guard her and how we’re going to help off her. We just try to keep her from scoring so many.”
Three players – Turner and seniors post Megan Aebersold and Maya Luney – will be responsible for guarding Rates, who enters tonight averaging 14.7 points and 9.5 rebounds a game.
The key for the trio, Hurt said, is keeping Rates from getting to the glass and letting their teammates get rebounds.
“One of the biggest keys is we’ve told Maya and Morgan and Megan – the kids who are likely going to be guarding Beth – that when she or anyone else shoots, their No. 1 job is to box her out and hold that box-out,” he said. “What we’ve done in the past is we’ve been in her vicinity and her athletic ability has beaten us. If Maya and Morgan and Megan don’t get any rebounds, I’m great with that as long as Beth doesn’t either. Our other four kids are going to have to come in and get those rebounds.”
Turner thinks the Lady Waves have what it takes to be successful against Rates. In fact, she isn’t shying away from the task of shutting down one of the state’s best players.
“It’s really benefited me playing against her,” Turner said. “You can tell how hard she’s worked to get where she is right now. It just motivates you knowing that there’s another player that’s potentially better than you. Knowing how she’s played in her career, it’s motivated me to do the best I can. It’s motivated all of us to do the best we can.”
While their focus will be on Rates, Hurt and the Lady Waves know the Lady Hornets are far from a one-woman show.
Senior guard Audry Hawkins averages 9.6 points per game, while senior guard Mollie Bozarth averages seven and senior guard Brenna Basham 6.3.
“You want to stop (Rates), but they have other talented players,” Hurt said. “We’re going to try and focus on her heavily tomorrow night and try to double-team her as soon as she gets it. We’re going to try and prevent her from getting it. Our goal is to try and stop her as best we can. We have to stay out of foul trouble and use our depth and use fresh bodies and harass her as much as we can.
“The group that we’re playing with right now has been playing for about three years, and their seniors have been playing together for about three years,” he added. “So this has developed into a really good rivalry, a heated rivalry. I know both sides look forward to playing each other.”
Josh Claywellcan be reached at (270) 505-1752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.